The Raven

The Raven

Saturday, November 3, 2012


"On November Eve the dead are abroad, and dance with the fairies" p 118 Fairy and Folktales of Ireland. 

To me, this sounds lovely... yet, as long as the fairies are good ones. It also reminds me of what my grandmother told my cousin when her kitten disappeared; she told her to not be sad, because her kitten must be across the Bay having tea... We were also told that if we were not good, the gypsies would take us away. Lighthearted scaring when we were misbehaving was a familiar thing in my childhood. This reminds me of this time of year, Halloween, my favorite time of year!

Why we celebrate this time of year goes back 2,000 years ago to Ireland (and the present-day  United Kingdom and Northern France) inhabited by the Celts.The Celts, who fought naked, impaled their enemies' heads on their swords as they road naked into battle (as told to me by my uncle, and confirmed by my Irish History Encyclopedia) sacked Rome in 387-86 BC (p. 63 Charles Doherty, How The Celts Influenced Ireland; The Encyclopedia of Ireland, 2000). Evidence of Celtic culture,  the La Tene, can be found in Ireland dating back to the 3rd Century BC.

Pagan culture existed before the Celts in Ireland, yet the Celts get all the credit! (they were pretty intense as you can tell by the aforementioned nakedness and head impaling).

Celtic culture began to settle in Ireland. As the bountiful summer crops were harvested, and the once green plants began to hibernate as the months grew cooler and dimmer, the people of Ireland felt an end to the year. Soon, they too would hibernate. As months of longer nights and shorter days approached vines withered and dried up, all the land began to look dead. This seemed symbolic of human death and it was believed that during this time, the boundary between the living world and the dead/spiritual world became breached. October 31 was believed to be the mark of the time when the souls of those who had died could come back to the human world. An extra place would be set at the dinner table for passed loved ones and candles would be lit along the roads to help guide the spirits back to the spirit world.

During this time, the priests of the Celts, Druids, could make predictions for the coming year. Huge bonfires were lit, costumes made of animal heads and skins were worn, and offerings were burnt to ensure blessings for the new year. This harvest/prayer time was known as Samhain (sow-en), Summer's End. After the bonfires, the indoor hearth fires were re-lit with remnants of the bonfire to ensure blessings during the cold, dark months of Winter.

You may think the Celts heathens, un-Christian, yet, Celtic culture and the culture of Christianity intermingled, (as inextricably as a Celtic knot, hahaha) but, seriously, you can see an example of this in the Celtic Cross- the circle for the symbol of the Sun and the Cross, for Jesus, or Christianity.

In 1000 AD the Catholic Church moved their observance day, originally May 13, of the martyrs and saints to November 2 and sanctioned it All Soul's Day,(i guess they it thought sounded "chuch-ier" than Samhain.) The new observance day was also called All-hallowmass; the night before this day, November 1, was called All Hallow's Eve and eventually Halloween.


costuming:  during Halloween, as days grew cold and dark sooner, it was believed that ghosts, some very bad, roamed the Earth. To avoid being recognized as a human, while traveling over the moors and through the woods, people would wear scary masks.

 trick-or-treating ancient, pagan practice was to leave food and wine out for roaming spirits in the time of Samhain. Later, this practice was replaced by the Church. In England, during All Soul's Day's parades, impoverished people would go around and beg for something to eat. They would be given little cakes called "soul cakes" in return for a promise that they would pray for their giver's passed relatives.

jack-o-lanterns: no Irish history would be complete without some drinking!  There was once a man called Stingy Jack who invited the Devil to come drink with him (the Devil is never very far when whiskey spirits are raised). Of course, Jack didn't get his name by paying for his drinks, so he dared the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use for their drinks. Once he did so, he put the coin in hos pocket next to a silver cross, preventing the Devil from turning himself back.  He made the Devil promise him that he would not bother him if he turned him back, nor take his soul if he died. The Devil promised and so Jack turned him back. A year later, Jack tricked the Devil again into climbing a tree for a piece of fruit. Once up there, Jack carved the sign of the Cross in the tree so that the Devil could not come down. Once he got the Devil to promise that he would not bother Jack for another ten years, though it seems Jack is bothering the Devil!, he let the Devil come down.
When Jack died, the Devil would not take his soul, for all the annoying trickery,  nor would God allow him into Heaven. So God sent Jack out into the darkness giving him only a burning lump of coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a hollowed out turnip for a lantern and then became known as Jack of the Lantern, or as the Irish say, Jack o' Lantern. The people of Ireland, Scotland and England carved scary faces into potatoes and turnips and placed in their windows to keep away Jack and all his tricks. God forgive 'em.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Be Good in the Woods"

I skipped my therapy session and went to my local arts district for Third Friday events; I confessed to my therapist when he called and I answered my phone not knowing or expecting it to be him. I know I should not have skipped, and I felt bad, but I want to feel inspired, and creative- explore the grey areas; I wanted to see art and craftsman(and woman)ship. All week I feel stifled, even though part of my job entails creating floral arrangements, I am part of a mass-market industry that does not allow for unique artistry.
I am trying therapy because during my treatment for alcoholism I learned that my way managing life got me into a rehab facility because I made my life unmanageable, so I should try doing what people who have their life together tell me to do.  But I feel they are trying to make things black and white for me when I live and think in grey. I know they think the grey areas cause addicts to use and they are trying to teach us that we can control our lives by simplifying it, but I don't think anything in life is simple... I  am glad I skipped, but I won't do it again.
Wandering downtown in the arts district, I am enchanted even by the little wildflowers in whimsical pots or in the grasses greeting me at each little shop. During my visit this week, I met a man who creates dragons from trees and pine cones. While walking with his granddaughter in the woods, she picked up a pine cone and said that it looked like armor. He agreed and was inspired, thinking of dragon scales. He said that when walking through the woods, the trees all have their own spirit; I connected with this idea, for I am greatly inspired by the shapes of trees. I was amazed at his creations. He peels away each scale from the cone and fixes it to a frame made out of wood and corn husks. He carves the teeth from pistachio shells! He made a large head of our fabled Jersey Devil. These dragons, grotesque enough to scare a young child, are fragile bits of nature that are often forgotten, thrown away- shells, pines cones and corn husks- are reassembled to create a mighty image of mystic lore that warn children to "be good in the woods" or they will get you! If you look in the woods you will find that there are some trees, a type of pine I think, that looks strikingly similar to  dragon scales; it could be just a limb, or a neck, of some woodland creature waiting!
I want to write more, but my headache is becoming more bothersome and I feel like my skin is crawling; I have had about 5 or 6 cups of tea! I must now try some relaxation and rest my eyes... after all, it is nearing 2am.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Russian Roulette

i remember sitting in English 102 at my local community college in 2005. We read a story, i cannot recall just now the author, about a man who day-dreamed about the days of knights and chivalry and sat in bars drinking to escape the modern world. i spoke up and said that i am a lot like the character since i often romanticize about past times. my professor said, "yes, but you're not sitting in bars lamenting about it." he should have said, "You're not sitting in bars lamenting YET."

i finally went to get serious help for my alcoholism. i am three weeks sober. i never had a problem admitting that i was an alcoholic; in fact, i felt emotionally free being an imbalanced, manic, drunken writer, misunderstood by the world and sought solace in a whiskey bottle. i liked the manic feeling whiskey gave me... in my early days of drinking. i was quick with a witty retort and males seemed to be taken back by how fast this little 5'2'', 103 pound girl gulping whiskey could put them in their place. I felt strong; for the first time i was not a meek little thing awkward and searching for the ease of expressing the words trapped in her head. i thought i was another Edgar Allen Poe,James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway... but, they wrote books, i just dreamed of writing books, drank and wandered in graveyards talking aloud while sipping whiskey, waiting for an epiphany that would cause me to race home and finish my novel and change the world. i have always felt a presence of something around me; i do not know exactly what it is, but it is a benevolent spirit. i feel it now as i type. i know if i speak, it hears me.

Every time i drank it was like playing Russian Roulette. i never knew for sure which drink would set me "off"- if i would loose control and go on a manic journey, both mentally and physically. i began to feel like a ghost haunting my own house, mourning someone i had loved and lost.

i did not start out this way. i had planned on being a published writer by 19. I planned to be a sober writer because i wanted it to be a pure, natural mind that emoted. I wanted to be unique in being a sober, profound writer. I began my novel at 18. I am now 26, a recovering alcoholic and still working on finishing my novel.

during my three weeks, away from home, following a regimented schedule, being forced to socialize while sober, i found that i am intelligent, witty and will stand up for myself. i learned i can still be tragic and dark and deep and wander around talking to Nature. i felt a peaceful connection with Nature, the trees especially. creative imagery became more vivid and i became more articulate when i spoke to the groups. I realized that i had stopped living. whiskey was my abusive lover. i isolated with it. i miss it. i don't want it to be sad without me because i know how it feels to be sad, alone and misunderstood.